You know you do it. We ALL do it. We use the word “like” in our vocabulary every single day. The traffic was like, horrible. I was like, so late for work today. I’m like, so tired. The word itself can be used as a noun, verb, adverb, adjective, preposition, particle, conjunction, hedge, interjection and quotative. As a population, it seems that we use it in every sentence that comes out of our mouths, and it’s completely acceptable.
“Valley speak,” where we first started using the word “like” in this manner originated in the San Fernando Valley in the 1970’s. The Valley girl’s stereotype became an international fad and movies such as Valley Girl, Heathers, Clueless, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure and Wayne’s World began to shape our every day language. Thankfully, words such as “tubular” and “gnarly” have lost their appeal, but using the word “like” in every sentence has not only stuck around, it has become customary in our way of speaking.
Recently, on one of my favorite shows, “The Graham Norton Show,” wil.i.am from the Black Eyed Peas was a guest, along with Harry Potter actress Miriam Margolyes. As wil.i.am is speaking, he uses the word “like” continually, and Miriam calls him out on it, saying, “No, it’s not like, it just is.” The entire show is hilarious as wil.i.am struggles to not say the word “like” when telling stories. Here is a small clip of him trying not to use it and how really difficult it is:
Ever since watching that, I have been consciously listening to people when they speak and it is amazing how much we use that word. I am guilty of it myself.
Now, you won’t see newscasters describing a horrible accident that was like, just awful. Professors at Universities probably won’t be telling you that the mid-term is like, really hard. And, I don’t think the President will be saying our economy is like, a total mess.
Why is it that when we need to be professional and appropriate, that the word “like” can be tucked away in our brains for a short period of time, but as soon as the tie comes off and happy hour begins, we are spewing out this really average word that becomes an overrated exclamation for even the dullest stories?
I don’t think the ridiculous use of the word “like” is going to go away anytime soon. As adults, we have reduced our daily terminology to that of what a couple of teenagers would say to each other. And again, it’s completely acceptable.
So, here’s the challenge. Can you have a conversation today without using the word “like?”
It’s like, harder than you think.